Unhealthy Air Quality Boosts Air Purifier and Personal Safety Sales

 In Shopping

California has seen a large increase in dangerous wildfires in the past two years. In October 2017, the Northern California wildfires in Napa made worldwide headlines. The fires, which began on October 8, tore through Northern California creating over $9B in estimated damage and leaving approximately 8,400 homes and buildings destroyed. The fires destroyed nearly 240,000 acres and created air quality conditions rated “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” for residents surrounding the Bay Area. The morning after the fires started in Napa and Sonoma counties, news outlets began reporting on the harmful air and smoke that lay over the Bay Area and advised residents to beware of the air. As the fires themselves devastated and displaced populations, the air quality created an additional threat that loomed over the Bay Area.

Not more than a year later, California was consumed with two major, concurrent fires.  On the November 8, hundreds of miles apart, two fires started in California: the Camp Fire just North of Sacramento, and the Woosley Fire in Malibu. The Camp Fire burned through more than 150,000 of acres and the Woosley Fire destroyed nearly 100,000 acres.

Smoke and poor air plagued communities adjacent to both fires. Data from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District showed local air quality levels in the “very unhealthy” range. At times, the air was rated the most unhealthy in the world. Residents began clamoring for air purifiers for their homes and offices and face masks to protect themselves when going outside.

Using data on consumer behavior from Jumpshot’s Insights platform, we analyzed transactions by day starting January 2017 thru November 2018 within the Air Purifier and Personal Safety categories. The data revealed large increases in transactions right around the time periods when the air quality deteriorated from wildfire smoke.

Except for Amazon Prime Day and the holiday shopping season, the top spikes in purchases for air purifiers coincided with the Napa Fires and the Camp Fire. Around the start of the Napa Fires, the escalation on October 12th made up 6% of the total sales for the month.

The Napa fires lasted for 24 days and the transactions during that time frame represented 80% of the transactions for the month of October 2017. Well-known giant Amazon was the top retailer for Air Purifier purchases with 92% of the sales volume, Walmart and Costco trailing in second and third place.

The data proved similar findings for the Camp Fire. Days after the start of the fire, transactions grew 7% on November 17.  The Camp Fire lasted for 18 days. Transactions during this period of time made up 77% of the sales for the month of November 2018. 3M was also the leading brand during Camp Fire, making up almost 25% of transactions. Amazon crushed the competition during this time frame with the eCommerce mogul almost making up 100% of the share at 99.8%.

Face masks were also at the top of the purchase list during both the Napa Fires and the Camp Fire. The top brand during both was 3M, who specializes in personal safety products including face masks and respirators. The company’s N95-rated masks became ubiquitous on the streets of San Francisco during the worst of the smoke this year. And purchases online were a huge component of this phenomenon.

In October and November, the worst week of wildfire smoke alone accounted for 42% of all 3M purchases in the personal safety category for the two-month period across the U.S. Amazon was the only retailer we saw purchases on in the category over the worst of the wildfire smoke, suggesting that Lowes and Home Depot, who saw stores run out of masks, weren’t on customer’s minds as online options.

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